Advocacy in the School

The purpose of inspiring advocacy among LGBTQ+ members is to develop agency, leadership, activism, and engagement, and create a community of youth dedicated to initiating social change (Sutherland, 2019). When GSA members discuss inequality and ways to advocate, they build greater self-understanding and commitment to social action (Chong et al., 2019).

“Try to attract a broad spectrum of students by having activities that a lot of people could support, such as painting a diversity mural, holding assemblies that work to improve school climate, anti-harassment campaigns, etc. Collaborate with other school clubs such as art and drama groups and other social-action clubs. Go to regional networking meetings, and try to get together with other GSAs.”

– Sue Beers, Westford Academy (GLSEN Jump-Start Guide, Part 1, n.d.)

“Occasional informational sessions or even formal presentations encouraging teachers to challenge homophobic comments among students can really help create a more open community.”

~ Trevor Drake, Conestoga High School (GLSEN Jump-Start Guide, Part 1, n.d.)

Ideas for Advocacy in the School

Educate administration and faculty on LGBTQ+ issues and school-based concerns, to advocate for needed changes (Stonefish & Lafreniere, 2015)

Educate administration and faculty on binary gender concepts, and on issues of discrimination and harassment of LGBTQ+ adolescents to advocate for support (Stonefish & Lafreniere, 2015)

Work on responses to anti-LGBTQ+ statements/actions by students, faculty, and staff (Mayo, 2013). It can be important to learn that anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment often stems from ignorance rather than malice, and work to counter that ignorance with information (Mayo, 2013)

Educate peers about what LGBTQ+ students face at school, to help change and improve school culture, and student attitudes and behaviors (Elliott, 2016)

Observe the Day of Silence ( in the school (April); encourage students, faculty, and administration to observe it as well, and share its meaning (Porta et al., 2017; Sutherland, 2019)

Educate on and observe the Transgender Day of Remembrance (November) (GLSEN Jump-Start Guide, Part 1, n.d.)

Have a Pride Prom (Sutherland, 2019)

Work with administration and the school board to educate about and challenge heteronormative policies, such as gender-binary bathrooms, locker rooms, dress codes, and gender-based segregation (Elliott, 2016; Sutherland, 2019). Bathrooms and locker rooms are some of the most dangerous places on a school campus for LGBTQ+ students, especially transgender students (Elliott, 2016)

Give classroom presentations on LGBTQ+ issues, the experience of being LGBTQ+, why terminology matters, etc. (Porta et al., 2017)

Arrange the following at school: Ally Week, No Name-Calling Week, Think B4 You Speak (; educate administration, faculty, staff and student what the weeks mean, and why (Poteat et al., 2016; Porta et al., 2017)

Team with other school organizations, including those concerning racial and religious issues, to counter all forms of oppression (Chong et al, 2019)

Celebrate LGBT History Month (October) (GLSEN Jump-Start Guide, Part 1, n.d.)

Ally with other groups to celebrate the entire school culture. Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (January) and Black History Month (February) (GLSEN Jump-Start Guide, Part1, n.d.)


Chong, E. S. K., Yoshikawa, H., Poteat, P., & Calzo, J. P. (2019). Fostering youth self-efficacy to address transgender and racial diversity issues: The role of gay-straight alliances. School Psychology, 34(1):54-63. doi:10.1037/spq0000258

Elliott, K. O. (2016). Queering student perspectives: Gender, sexuality and activism in school. Sex Education, 16(1):49-62. doi:10.1080/14681811.2015.1051178

Mayo, J. B. (2013). Critical pedagogy enacted in the gay-straight alliance: New possibilities for a third space in teacher development. Educational Researcher, 42(5):266-275.

Porta, C. M., Singer, E., Mehus, C. J., Gower, A. L., Saewyc, E., Fredkove, W., & Eisenberg, M. E. (2017). LGBTQ youth’s views on gay-straight alliances: Building community, providing gateways, and representing safety and support. Journal of School Health, 87(7):489-497. doi:10.1111/josh.12517

Poteat, V. P., Calzo, J. P., & Yoshikawa, H. (2016, January 18). Promoting youth agency through dimensions of gay-straight alliance involvement and conditions that maximize associations. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 45:1438-1451. doi:10.1007/s10964-016-0421-6

Stonefish, T. & Lafreniere, K. D. (2015). Embracing diversity: The dual role of gay-straight alliances. Canadian Journal of Education, 38(4).

Sutherland, D. K. (2019). The push for transgender inclusion: Exploring boundary spanning in the gay-straight alliance. Sociology Compass, 13:e12739. doi:10.1111/soc4.12739

The GLSEN jump-start guide, part 1: Building and activating your GSA or similar student club. (n.d.). GLSEN.

%d bloggers like this: